Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Trends in precipitation, streamflow, reservoir pool elevations, and reservoir releases in Arkansas and selected sites in Louisiana, Missouri, and Oklahoma, 1951–2011

January 30, 2014

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) conducted a statistical analysis of trends in precipitation, streamflow, reservoir pool elevations, and reservoir releases in Arkansas and selected sites in Louisiana, Missouri, and Oklahoma for the period 1951–2011. The Mann-Kendall test was used to test for trends in annual and seasonal precipitation, annual and seasonal streamflows of 42 continuous-record USGS streamflow-gaging stations, annual pool elevations and releases from 16 USACE reservoirs, and annual releases from 11 dams on the Arkansas River. A statistically significant (p≤0.10) upward trend was observed in annual precipitation for the State, with a Sen slope of approximately 0.10 inch per year. Autumn and winter were the only seasons that had statistically significant trends in precipitation. Five of six physiographic sections and six of seven 4-digit hydrologic unit code (HUC) regions in Arkansas had statistically significant upward trends in autumn precipitation, with Sen slopes of approximately 0.06 to 0.10 inch per year. Sixteen sites had statistically significant upward trends in the annual mean daily streamflow and were located on streams that drained regions with statistically significant upward trends in annual precipitation. Expected annual rates of change corresponding to statistically significant trends in annual mean daily streamflows, which ranged from 0.32 to 0.88 percent, were greater than those corresponding to regions with statistically significant upward trends in annual precipitation, which ranged from 0.19 to 0.28 percent, suggesting that the observed trends in regional annual precipitation do not fully account for the observed trends in annual mean daily streamflows. Trends in annual maximum daily streamflows were similar to trends in the annual mean daily streamflows but were only statistically significant at seven sites. There were more statistically significant trends (28 of 42 sites) in the annual minimum daily streamflows than in the annual means or maximums. Statistically significant trends in the annual minimum daily streamflows were upward at 18 sites and downward at 10 sites. Despite autumn being the only season that had statistically significant upward trends in seasonal precipitation, statistically significant upward trends in seasonal mean streamflows occurred in every season but spring. Trends in the annual mean, maximum, and minimum daily pool elevations of USACE reservoirs were consistent between metrics for reservoirs in the White, Arkansas, and Ouachita River watersheds, while trends varied between metrics at DeQueen Lake, Millwood Lake, and Lake Chicot. Most of the statistically significant trends in pool elevation metrics were upward and gradual—Sen slopes were less than 0.37 foot per year—and were likely the result of changes in reservoir regulation plans. Trends in the annual mean and maximum daily releases from USACE reservoirs were generally upward in all HUC regions. There were few statistically significant trends in the annual mean daily releases because the reservoirs are operated to maintain a regulation stage at a downstream site according to guidelines set forth in the regulation plans of the reservoirs. The annual number of low-flow days was both increasing and decreasing for reservoirs in northern Arkansas and southern Missouri and generally increasing for reservoirs in southern Arkansas.